Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why Write?

Many have said to me, "Russ, why do you feel the need to write?  You're probably not going to be an enormous success like Stephen King or Dan Brown, so why do it?"

The answer is very simple - because I have to.

I don't mean that in the sense of "someone will chop off my left leg if I don't," but rather that I have an urge I can't explain.  Most writers I know have this urge.  We tell stories - it's what we do.  Asking us why we write is like asking a normal person why they breathe.

I've been telling stories since I was nine.  In 4th Grade, we wrote stories a few times a week in a blue journal that we kept in our desks.  At the end of each week, we got to read those stories to the class.  I was so excited that I rattled off several stories and read each of them with glee to the enraptured audience.  That each one was basically a cheap knock off of Star Wars wasn't the point - it was that people were hanging on what I had to say.

During that 4th grade year, something else happened that opened up my imagination.  A girl that sat across from my desk wrote a story about a dark crystal that everyone sought to help save their minds.  She finished it in a cliffhanger that to this day I never found out the ending of.  However, what struck me most was how original it was.  My cheap Star Wars knock off no longer seemed as creative, and I resolved to try and create my own work.  Unfortunately, I was nine, and that level of creativity wasn't yet at hand.

I spent the next few years re-writing different science fiction stories I liked and calling them original.  I loved V, so several of my stories were just expansions on that universe.  My mind seemed incapable of going off of what I didn't already know, but there was a bubbling just below the surface.  I had to find something original to write about.  Non-writers don't understand, but those who've looked at a blank page and seen possibilities instead of despair know what I'm talking about.

Then in high school, while daydreaming in English class, I saw a group of glowing craft attacking my school, and I saw it clear as day.  I spent the next week finding out why and how we would respond in the post-apocalyptic aftermath, and my first truly original story was born.  Later that year, another, this one about humanity's isolation following a devastating war, came into my head just as clearly.

I needed to tell these things.  Late night philosophical discussions at college dorms led to my telling of a few stories I'd designed, and I was surprised when my friends encouraged me to keep writing, so I did.  We had a computer lab in the dorms(this was before the days of everybody owning a computer) that took floppy disks - yes, the ones big enough to eat off of - and I wrote down my next story, one that would eventually become my first novel, On Freedom's Wings.  That the novel was so awful that I wouldn't show it to anyone now doesn't take away from the fact that I completed a full novel.  I was thrilled, but the desire hadn't gone away.  Instead, it had only increased.

It continues to this day, and it's something most folks won't get.  Even if no one ever reads what I write, I will continue to write.  I have several dozen stories to tell, so many that I intentionally have to shut down my imagination or new stories will intrude on what I'm currently writing.  Sometimes I wish the desire wasn't as strong, but I'd lose a part of what defines me.  Further, if I ever hope to make this thing a career, it had better be a strong desire.  Rare is the instance where a "meh" desire becomes reality.


  1. RD, we're on the same page.
    I began writing in 1971. I may have had a few things pull me off-stride, but I did not quit writing even though I didn't find an agent who wanted my work, and didn't get a publisher (micro), until 2009-2010.

    Most writers write because it's inside them. We can't help ourselves. It is as close to the need to breath or eat as a natural thing can be.

    So, keep on writing. Very few of us become a JK Rowling, or Stephen King, but people will discover us and we eventually gain a following--small as it might be.

    1. Continuing to write is the difference between the contenders and the pretenders.

      Wow, did I really just say something like that? I'll go flog myself now. :-D